Washington, D.C., will be the next major city to implement a $15 minimum wage rate following a unanimous vote Tuesday by its city council.
In a victory for local and national labor unions, Washington joins the ranks of cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle in raising wages for primarily lower-income workers in restaurants, retail and other service industries.
The District’s current hourly minimum wage is $10.50, and it was scheduled to go up to $11.50 next month under a law enacted in 2014.
But local advocates for a higher minimum wage were invigorated by the national “Fight for $15” movement. They had been gearing up to collect signatures for a November ballot initiative, but that effort will be dropped.
The District Council’s vote has to be ratified next month, a move considered only a formality. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she will sign the legislation. “I see how much it costs to live in Washington, D.C., and that cost is only going up,” said Bowser, according to the Associated Press. “Even at $15, it’s tough to be able to afford to live in Washington, D.C.”
The higher wage would go into effect gradually, reaching $15 by 2020. Future hikes would be tied to inflation.
Critics of the increase warned that the move will ultimately harm lower-wage workers by stifling job growth. And House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “I think it will do more harm than good, because what it does is it prices entry-level jobs away from people.”
As NPR member station WAMU reports, the District’s pending minimum wage hike won’t include tipped restaurant workers. They currently earn $2.77 an hour, which will rise to $5 in 2020. One advocacy group for restaurant workers is still demanding the $15 hourly hike.